Steel Yard SoundSystem, a monthly dance party in Cleveland, celebrates its first anniversary this Saturday. In this week’s Shuffle, we revisit an interview from last year. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia spoke with then-Cleveland Scene Managing Editor Eric Sandy who wrote about Steel Yard SoundSystem. Sandy says it’s driven by Electronic Dance Music, Reggae and Dub.
To understand the sound, it’s helpful to understand what “Dub” is. Sandy calls it a loose musical term incorporating reggae and the early stylings of hip-hop. It’s very bass heavy. It can also be a cultural term or a communion among like-minded people who just want to cut loose and dance, enjoy some good food and catch up with neighbors.
House of Joy
Dub and reggae sprang from the movement of Africans going from Jamaica to London to New York City. So where does Cleveland fit into music with roots in Africa, Jamaica, London and New York City?
Sandy says, “on the edges." The vibrant DJ scene in Northeast Ohio at places like Touch Supper Club, B-Side, The Beachland Tavern and The Grog Shop can be incorporated very easily into the culture that involves warehouse parties with a massive sound system at the center (sometimes called a “House of Joy”).
In Cleveland, Sandy says young people can set up their own rigs rather cheaply, and there are benefits from having the space for the parties.
Another similarity – although he’s not comparing Cleveland’s West Side to Jamaica – is that the sound system culture evolved out of the ghettos of Kingston: whether selling food at a street party or spinning tunes or being an MC, it was a way to make money.
A Rust Belt patina
To do the same thing here, all one needs is the right equipment, and some gumption.
So could this be the new Cleveland Sound? And would it be called “Steel Yard”? Sandy says any name would likely incorporate Rust Belt imagery. And his main argument for the success of Steel Yard SoundSystem, as a passive observer, is, “this is something new. It's not a cover band. It's not a tribute band. It's pretty genuine and heartfelt -- which I like.”
More information on Steel Yard SoundSystem is available here.
“Shuffle” is our weekly look at Northeast Ohio’s music scene. You can hear it Thursdays during “Morning Edition.”